Monkey dey Work, Baboon dey Chop: Choosing a Career in America
Finally, I'm able to write the last installment of this series, which should have been ready like last year. With working full time at trying to find a job as a reporter, working a part-time job that has me tied down like it's a full time job but without the pay and benefits. Then, a second job as a receptionist, several illusive hobbies that include painting, writing, traveling and dreaming up business plans and strategy for making fast money to clear up my debt and pay tuition for when I eventually go to graduate school. Volunteering as a guinea pig for research studies, going to church every week, and trying to secure my 'life insurance' and by that I mean a husband. An upcoming internship at a local newspaper and contemplating getting a gig at the MAC or Origins make-up counter at Belk’s for the fun of it, and of course to pay the bills, it is no wonder I can't meet some deadlines.
Why don't I have a fat bank account like some of these talent less celebrities, why can't I just buy a ticket to Tahiti and party with the islanders, why do I have to be tied down to a career just to succeed; slaving round the clock and still no guarantees for the future, first because of scumbags and scoundrels like Osama Bin Laden and then because the government is taking a good chunk of my hard earned money that I’ve sweated and broken nails for, to fund it’s escapades in Iraq. And did I mention those school loan collectors calling and sounding like they are really concerned about you. Asking how things are going with you like they really care, or can solve your problem. They only know how to become counselors and attentive listeners when you miss a payment. If I could only be married to Chris Heinz, John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry's son, I’d become the Ketchup-princess and would spend all my time campaigning for the democrats, and sponsoring senate bills and legislature like Oprah. I might just even have a slight chance to run for president of the United State. Can I even be the third wife to Nigeria’s Eleganza King, the plastic millionaire himself? Ok that sounds rather gross and desperate; I would have picked Donald Trump but he can neither understand or appreciate an African woman in her lace Iro-and-Buba, Million Stone Georges, and geles of damask quality nor can he ‘komole’(key it down) to ‘Ijo-Shina’ at the many road-blocking ‘Owambe’ shindigs that I’ll be throwing with his money. If only I could just win the mega-million dollar lottery, you probably would never see any articles from me ever again instead I would be gracing the pages of the likes of People Magazine, US Weekly, Ovation or even Times Magazine. I might even decide to join the happy-go-lucky liberal-leftist of Chapel Hill protesting the war on Iraq, the G-8 countries, holding up ‘Support Roe v Wade’ and ‘Legalize Marijuana' signs while smoking a blunt myself. Better yet, I would build a mansion in my village, water bore-hole is yesterday’s news; I would build a water plant in the village mission-square, Evian and Deer Park will become ‘Uzo-Iyi Spring Water’ or ‘Oguta Lake Water. Can I get debt relief too?
Money is certainly not every thing, but one would be foolish not to agree that no matter where you go, money and wealth do indeed make the world go round. You can’t achieve them without first being smart, making sacrifices, taking risks and being persistent with the choices you make. The case may be different if you share the same bed with Lady Luck or you are a blood relative of Mr. Tortoise the trickster. Now I am not endorsing 419 or any means of obtaining by trick. Those means don’t constitute smartness but a risk they certainly are, a foolish one at that and mere thievery that could lead you to jail when you get caught, but a risk all the same that could lead to fortune and affluence.
Although you can make it anywhere in the world if you try hard, there is no question that America is definitely the land of opportunity, and there are certain career and degree choices that are much more possible and viable than in Nigeria and other countries and vice-versa. However it would be foolish to think that everyone is cut out to survive in this cutthroat society. That is why it is important for people planning to make that move to America, to ensure they are employable and their career interests or hobbies will be fulfilling as well as lucrative.
The good thing about many Nigerian families is that from a very young age children are labeled with certain career picks and are molded towards that. Many youngsters are driven to ambition because of this and ensure they become what their parents have envisioned. This could be a motivating and positive way to give children a direction in life, it could also be detrimental to them as individuals, prevent them from discovering and tapping into other talents and attributes they may possess. It could even set them up for a huge disappointments and self-criticism, self-destruction and ultimately suicide if they don’t measure up to expectations. That aside, it is better to drill usefulness into kids than for them to waste oxygen and precious human space by having no future ambition.
While growing up, everyone, especially my dad, always told me I talked and argued too much so I would be the lawyer. I was always teased with the name ‘lawyer nwelekebe’ which is Ibo sarcasm to describe inexperience, immaturity and foolishness. They also acknowledged the fact that I commanded attention, was good at writing and very good at mimicking movie stars, but they brushed all that aside saying I’ll grow out of it. I personally nursed the idea of being on television whether as a journalist, (my role models were Oprah Winfrey and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour) or an actress; an idea my parents felt wasn’t very practical or realistic in a country like Nigeria where journalists were thrown in jail and actors at times rarely command respect or make money. In fact, the idea alone was frustrating for my dad, who sat me down and really asked me to reconsider my career choice and study law instead. With that in mind I decided if I stayed in Nigeria I would become a lawyer but if I study abroad I would be a journalist and writer, the latter of which I did as a broadcast journalism major and drama minor. Somewhere in between, and this is a true story, I wanted to be a zoologist, anthropologist, archaeologist, historian, botanist, a catholic nun, a professor, a philanthropist and an ambassador. I am sure I also had President of Nigeria or the United States on the list somewhere. You can say I had issues, but I can say that I am a normal child because some children of today don’t even give you ‘foolish’ answers that don’t exist, like ‘astronomist’ instead they say they want to be a rappers and video-girls.
The idea is to at least have an ambition, a goal, albeit realistic ones. I have come across many obstacles in my chosen career, that range from my hair style, to the way I talk; one news director who critiqued my tape once told me that I sounded like a Jamaican with a bad English accent that would be unpleasant to the ears, another told me I talked from one side of my mouth. Many even say my career choice is unreasonable and unrealistic because I am an African woman with nappy hair and an accent. They are not wrong by their assessment, but that is a risk that I am willing to take. It may work for me, in fact, it will work for me, but it may not be the same for everybody. Just because everyone is a nurse or works for Wachovia and Accenture does not mean that you should all run to flood nursing or business schools without truly assessing whether that’s the right profession for you. Research and ask questions and get answers from reliable sources and seek out mentors before you leap into a life long career commitment.
It is true that you should not limit your abilities, but be certain that you have genuine passion for the career you pick and that you are not in it solely for its lucrative ness, chasing the dollar can burn one out someday. You also want a career that will advance your intellect because the mind is a great thing to waste. Also ensure that your career or job aspiration will not diminish your quality of life and will bring about self-enhancement.
In conclusion, I would like to share some words of wisdom that I wrote into my journal, from ‘Reader’s Digest’ Quotable Quotes. The first is from Oprah Winfrey, “Doing your best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next.” This is my daily bread and you know everything ‘O’ says is literarily gospel. No matter how challenging the circumstances are, remember to stay true to your goals and principles and always keep you eyes on the prize. Your work is your resume and it will speak for you so you must do it well. The second is by writer and poet Erica Jong, who said, “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” Choosing a career like many other things in life is a risk; life itself is a risk. The confidence you have in yourself and your abilities, bolstered by the strength in the knowledge that you have already acquired, will make you brazen enough to take on any risk. Not only because you are investing in yourself, your future, your family and but even in the futures of many people you don’t know about yet, but are destined to bless someday through your success.